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The protracted, thirty-year negotiation over the route, caused mainly by vigorous opposition from residents living in its path, meant that suburban development had already overtaken most of the land adjacent to the highway by the time it opened in While the Blue Route did not change the settlement patterns much in mid-county, it did increase traffic and commerce at interchanges with the major east-west routes. Although farming dominated Delaware County throughout the eighteenth century, many paper, cotton, woolen, lumber, and grain mills proliferated along four creeks: Darby, Crum, Ridley, and Chester.

Along the Delaware River, early investments in shipping, shipbuilding , brickworks, and iron foundries prompted further industrial development after the Civil War, especially shipbuilding in and around Chester. Pew The Baldwin Locomotive Works moved from Philadelphia to the borough of Eddystone on the Delaware River in , and by it was building army tanks for use on the battlefields of Europe during World War I. Sun Oil Co. Other manufacturers located on the Delaware River included Scott Industries, which produced paper and foam products, and American Viscose Co.

Ford Motor Co. This map shows median household incomes in Delaware County, tucked against the southwest edge of Philadelphia.


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Click on the map in the image gallery at right for a larger view. Retailers, restaurants , and services followed the spread of population into communities that offered desirable housing styles and schools. In some cases, shopping malls served as focal points for development. For example, the Springfield Mall, a ,square-foot, two-level facility opened in along Baltimore Pike, near its busy intersection with Pennsylvania Route Its original anchors included a John Wanamaker department store.

Although the mall declined during the s, it recovered strongly after the Blue Route opened in , helping to spawn a nearby development of age-restricted townhomes, condominiums, and golf course, as well as the Springfield Health Plex and hospital. Route 1 and West Chester Pike. Beginning as early as the s and continuing through World War II , early industrial opportunities along the Delaware River drew thousands of Irish Catholic workmen to mill and factory jobs in Upper Darby and Clifton Heights across the border from West Philadelphia. Polish and Italian workers came in the twentieth century to work in factories or to run small businesses.

Some companies built housing for their workers.

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The village, just north of Chester, subsequently became the Borough of Eddystone. Flooring manufacturer Congoleum Nairn Inc. Upper Darby in northwestern Delaware County has been home to a bustling downtown business district for most of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as seen in this photograph.

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Delaware County Historical Society | Historical Society of Pennsylvania

When manufacturing declined, housing values in many blue collar neighborhoods also declined. As these neighborhoods became more affordable, they drew growing numbers of minority and immigrant residents, especially in the last few decades of the twentieth century. By the s, African Americans comprised 80 percent of the population of the city of Chester and some of the inner suburbs along the border with Philadelphia, such as Yeadon, Colwyn, and Darby Borough.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, many municipalities remained more than 90 percent white.


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Perhaps more surprisingly, some boroughs in southeastern Delaware County with homes priced affordably for a broad range of both white and nonwhite buyers remained over 90 percent white in for example, Eddystone, Norwood, Prospect Park, and Ridley Park. The result was a pattern of racial and ethnic separation into predominantly white or black towns, through a combination of zoning ordinances and informal real estate practices that materialized despite objections from fair housing activists as early as the s.

These contrasting development patterns created differences in tax resources and therefore in municipal services. Compared to area townships, boroughs were especially disadvantaged because their very small landmasses in some cases only one square mile or less were entirely developed, leaving little room to create new taxable property. Their municipal budgets were too small to fund first-rate services.

With stagnating tax bases, school districts collected fewer dollars to spend on public education. Three of those four low-spending districts hugged the western boundary of the city of Philadelphia. Republican-dominated municipal governments were able to keep many communities virtually all white for decades but, as in Upper Darby and Millbourne, the racial makeup of some communities started to change at the end of the twentieth century.

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To make such stark inequalities worse, the lower-spending districts were educating higher shares of low-income children. For example, in only 9 percent of the school population in high-spending Radnor Township had incomes low enough to qualify for free- and reduced-prices lunches. That same year, low-spending districts like Southeast Delco and William Penn served student bodies in which 82 percent and 70 percent, respectively, qualified for the lunch program.

Both these districts served multiple towns too small to operate their own schools and densely developed so that they had little prospect of adding new property to bolster their tax base. Southeast Delco educated children from three boroughs plus one township, while the William Penn School District served six small boroughs crowded together at the Philadelphia border.

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Despite levying relatively high property tax rates compared to their neighbors, these older communities remained consistently underfunded. According to the census, the county population was roughly 80 percent white and 18 percent black, with Asians and Hispanics making up the rest. The growing proportion of minority residents appeared to have an impact on political attitudes and behavior. The political makeup of some municipal governments such as Media and Swarthmore also slowly changed, while gerrymandering of state and congressional election districts helped the Republican Party maintain its grip on the county as a whole.

In national elections, the voters shifted in s toward Democratic candidates. While the populations of many communities in eastern Delaware County remained stable or declined over time, at the end of the twentieth century the western suburbs experienced growth and sprawl. As the population in that area continued to grow, so did the need for open space.

To preserve farms and woodlands, the county government published a plan in for economic development and land use that encouraged infill development to preserve and rehabilitate existing infrastructure and housing stock wherever possible while also protecting green spaces.

Key to that strategy was revitalizing the Delaware riverfront. Moreover, the nearby Philadelphia International Airport provided passenger and cargo service to waterfront producers. For the western and northern suburbs, planners advised a shift in development patterns away from the sprawling single family homes popular in the s and s, to more dense housing patterns such as townhomes. No matter how carefully the county government documented the need for and potential benefits of such development strategies, the structure of local government in Pennsylvania gave primary responsibility for regulating land-use to local governments, which controlled zoning.

County governments played only a limited role, mainly advising and supporting local planning efforts. Not surprisingly, affluent townships like Radnor and Middletown devoted the most open space for both recreational and passive uses. Local governments in those communities, along with other affluent townships like Concord, Nether Providence, and Upper Providence persuaded citizens to approve bond issues for millions of dollars to purchase and preserve open space.

In contrast, leaders in the older suburbs, especially the small boroughs, faced greater obstacles. These small, densely-populated communities possessed few undeveloped parcels. Organization Logo:. External Finding Aids:.

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